Journalist Gwen Thompkins takes on teaching

September 28, 2011 5:45 AM

Ryan Rivet

It’s been said that you can’t go home again, but Gwen Thompkins is disproving that old adage. After 15 years working for National Public Radio — first in Washington, D.C., then in Africa — the New Orleans native and Tulane alumna is back in the Crescent City and has returned to Tulane as an instructor.


Former National Public Radio editor and Tulane alumna Gwen Thompkins is in the classroom at Tulane, teaching newswriting in the School of Continuing Studies. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Thompkins, who was the senior editor of NPR’s “Weekend Edition Saturday” from 1996 to 2006, then the East Africa correspondent for the network, is teaching Advanced Newswriting in the journalism program of the School of Continuing Studies. While it may seem a coup for the program to gain an instructor with her experience, it was Thompkins who contacted the school.

“The importance of the job of teaching is to really stoke enthusiasm and love for writing and observing,” Thompkins says. “It’s also important for the kids to understand that journalism is a service. That’s something people can’t afford to forget.”

Thompkins remembers a time just before graduating from Tulane worrying about what she would do after college. She received a recruiting call from The Times-Picayune that changed her life. She wants to show students that journalism is still a good route that offers opportunities other careers don’t.

“It’s a big world out there — this is the kind of work that allows you to see that big world,” Thompkins says. “Having those kinds of ambitions is good in journalism.” 

Although journalism offers opportunities, it is an industry in flux. Regardless of the move toward digital reporting, Thompkins believes the fundamentals she’s teaching in her class will still be applicable.

“The media changes, but the expectations are the same,” Thompkins says. “Those expectations are that you report events accurately, that you have a command of the story and you tell it in an interesting way. Period.”


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